Manuel Veth –
The Istanbul club, Fenerbahçe, is planning to sue UEFA for €10 million. The Turkish club is taking UEFA to court, as they believe that Shakhtar Donetsk should not have been allowed to field Brazilian midfielder, Fred, during the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League qualification stage.
Shakhtar Donetsk convincingly eliminated Fenerbahçe 3-0 on aggregate (0-0, 0-3) in the third round of UEFA Champions League qualification. But the Ukrainians fielded Fred in both matches despite the fact that the Brazilian midfielder was being investigated for failing a doping test during the 2015 Copa América, which took place in Chile.
Fred was later banned from playing with Brazil in international matches in December 2015, and then received a worldwide ban in February 2016, which took the Brazilian out of action until June 2016. Fred returned to action last summer, and has been one of Shakhtar’s most important players this season.
Fred has been stellar for Shakhtar this season
The midfielder was especially stellar in the first half of the season when Shakhtar quickly build up a strong lead over closest rivals Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League, and won six out of six matches in the UEFA Europa League. Fred’s play was actually one of the reasons Shakhtar were considered one of the favourites for the Europa League title this season.
But behind closed doors storm clouds gathered. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had put in an appeal into Fred’s doping case. On March 7, rumours emerged that Fred would be, once again, suspended from playing football.
On March 12, Shakhtar’s president Sergei Palkin confirmed Fred’s second suspension in an interview with the Ukrainian television station 2+2: “Fred is suspended until the end of July, and in May he will be allowed to train again with the team.” Palkin further explained that this was a compromise with WADA: “The suspension could be 1 and a half years if we continue to challenge this in front of the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport).”
“Fred is now training in Brazil under an individual program, and is waiting for May.” Palkin concluded.
Fred will be missed in Shakhtar’s game
For Shakhtar, playing without Fred will be a massive loss. The Brazilian has been a key player for head coach Paulo Fonseca’s system this season. The Portuguese coach will now have to find alternatives inside the squad, who can fulfil the midfield pivot role that was occupied by Fred.
In the city derby against Olimpik Donetsk on March 17, which ended 1-1, Paulo Fonseca opted to play Maksym Malyshev, and Taras Stepanenko on the double pivot. What was clear that, without Fred, Shakhtar missed the sort of quickness in the transition game that had made the side dangerous for much of the season.
One solution could be to push back the talented Viktor Kovalenko from an attacking midfielder to a more holding midfielder. This could provide Shakhtar with the sort of speed in the transition game that is needed to put the quick attacking midfielders Bernard, Taison, and Marlos in the spotlight.
In some ways, Paulo Fonseca has the luxury of experimenting with the squad until the end of the season. Shakhtar are currently 14 points ahead of Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League title race. The two clubs are still facing each other twice in the second stage of the league, but even two Dynamo victories would do little to challenge Shakhtar’s claim to the title.
Fenerbahçe could rock standards set by UEFA
With this in mind, Fred’s suspension couldn’t have come at a better time—at least on the field. What happens now behind closed doors is an entirely different question.
Fenerbahçe may actually have a legitimate case against UEFA and, therefore, to some extent, Shakhtar. There will be questions asked regarding to what extent Shakhtar were involved in the doping case. Furthermore, Fenerbahçe will no doubt question FIFA’s decision to suspend Fred only for CONMEBOL games at first.
It took almost six months from when Fred first failed the test at the Copa América to the point when he was actually suspended by CONMEBOL, and another two months for FIFA to extend the ban to club competitions.
Will Fenerbahçe change UEFA policy?
Fenerbahçe’s lawsuit could also have an impact on UEFA’s doping policy. Currently, FIFA and UEFA, do not believe in collective punishments when it comes to doping. In 2009, for example, two CSKA Moscow players, Sergei Ignashevich and Aleksei Berezutsky, failed a doping test following CSKA’s 3-3 Champions League group stage match against Manchester United.
CSKA Moscow were not suspended from the competition, however, as article 21 of the disciplinary regulation stated that more than two players were required to fail a doping test in order for the threat of disqualification to be considered: “If more than two players from the same team are charged with a doping offence in relation to a prohibited substance or methods, the team in question may be disqualified from the competition in progress and/or future competitions.”
At a first glance, this rule could clear UEFA and Shakhtar, from any wrong-doing in the Fred case. On a second glance, however, the ruling could easily be challenged by Fenerbahçe which, if successful, would mean a dramatic change in how football would have to handle doping cases in the future.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.